Have you ever found yourself feeling paralyzed when it comes to making decorating decisions in your home? Or maybe you've stared at an image on Pinterest and wondered how in the world "they" pulled that room together to make it look so good? Well, I'm here to tell you that you can develop that skill and hone your decorating eye. You don't have to actually become a designer to create a beautiful home, but by taking note of and following a few decorating rules, you'll be well on your way. Like anything in life, it simply takes practice! And I'm here to help you out.
Of course, "rules" in the decorating world aren't hard and fast, but there's a reason they exist - they help strike that magic balance of form and function, and give your home that polished and decorated look. Think of them more as guidelines and use them as a gut check when you're picking out furniture and decor, or setting up a room. Following these tips will really go a long way in helping banish that paralyzing feeling that can creep in and help you move forward confidently.
Today I want to share ten (yes, ten!) of my go-to design tips with you that I use in every decorating project - whether it's for myself or a client. Some of these are more big picture decorating tips, some help with "flow," and some of them are straight up practical guidelines. I wanted to keep the list fairly short so it's not overwhelming, but give you enough actionable items so that you feel empowered to go forth and decorate!
So with that preamble complete, here are ten of my favorite decorating tips that you can use to create a beautiful home:
1. Choose one piece of inspiration and let it be your guide as you decorate.
Want to achieve that coordinated, pulled together look in each room? Find your decorating "muse" for each space and refer back to it any time you're making a decorating decision. This could be something like a piece of fabric or an image that represents what you're trying to create - whatever it is, use it as your jumping off point. Sticking to that color scheme, overall look, or vibe (ideally your inspiration piece will cover all three!) will keep you heading in the right direction.
2. Consider the "visual weight" of an item and try to strike a balance between light, medium, and heavy pieces.
Visual weight may sound like a fancy decorating term, but it's not! It's simply referring to how heavy or light a piece of furniture or decor looks in a room and how that changes the feel of the space. For example, an upholstered ottoman that sits directly on the floor is going to look and feel a lot heavier in a room than a leggy glass coffee table. It's generally a good idea to have a mix of items with different visual weights to create a balanced look and keep a room from feeling either too heavy or too light.
3. Try to maintain 36" of space for any walkway.
That 36" gives you enough space to walk without bumping into something and it also allows two people to pass each other without too much trouble. This rule applies anywhere in your house when you're passing between a piece of furniture and a wall, or between two major pieces of furniture. If you've ever found yourself constantly knocking into something, it probably has something to do with the walkway being too narrow.
Now, I know that 36" isn't always possible for one reason or another in our homes, but do try to preserve that amount of space for any major walkway. If there are places where that's not feasible, 18-24" is the minimum to shoot for.
4. Always measure!
In order to maintain a good walkway, you'll want to think hard about the size, scale, and placement of your furniture, and if there's one general tip I can drill into your head today, it's to always measure. Looking at a new sofa? Measure to make sure it fits well in your living room. Getting a new dresser? Measure the wall it'll go on to see how much space it takes up. If you're having trouble visualizing if a piece will work, tape out the dimensions on the floor with painter's tape. You can also draw a to-scale floor plan using graph paper. Whatever you do, before you make a big purchase, don't just guess if it will fit - measure!
5. Test paint samples before you commit to a color.
Don't ever pick a color from the tiny swatch on a paint chip. It's just not big enough for you to gather enough data on whether it will look right in your space. Instead, pick 3-5 colors, have them mixed into sample size paint pots, then paint those onto poster boards (two good coats!). Hang those poster boards on different walls in the room and observe them - it's amazing how much colors can change throughout the day and in different lighting conditions. Devoting a little bit of time and energy to this exercise before you paint will help you make sure you get that color right the first time.
6. Hang your art at the right height.
Typically, if art is hanging on its own on a wall, you want the center of it to be 60" off the ground (that's eye level for the average person). If the art is hanging over a piece of furniture like a console table, sideboard, or dresser, the 60" rule still applies if there's room. If not (say you've got a tall sideboard or dresser, for example), leave 3-5" of space between the top of the piece of furniture and the bottom of your art. These hanging heights apply to mirrors too, by the way.
7. Hang your curtains high and wide, and choose the correct length.
Curtains are one item I see hung incorrectly in the wrong length ALL the time and it has become one of my pet peeves. I promise I'm not saying that to be all judgy - it's just such an easy thing to get right if you take a second to think through where to hang your rod and choose the curtain length accordingly. Hang them high above and wider than the window casings. A good rule of thumb is to never hang them lower than the halfway point between the casing and the ceiling, and if you have the room, hang them 4-8" beyond the casing on each side (more on that here in this post). Doing this will make your window and the room feel bigger and more open. As for curtain length, they should generally "kiss" the floor or hang 1/4" off of it. No highwater curtains, please!
8. Choose the right size rug for your space (hint: bigger is usually better!)
Choosing the right size rug is easy if you stick to a few guidelines - you'll be a rug picking pro in no time!
- In a living room, you want to ensure that at least the front two feet of each piece of furniture are sitting comfortably on the rug. All four is fine too and you can occasionally get away with no feet on the rug, but I'd stay away from the latter if you aren't sure. This means most living rooms need an 8'x10' rug at minimum.
- In a dining room, the rug size will depend on the size of the table, but be sure to have enough space to pull your chair out comfortably without it going off the edge. It's super frustrating to catch the edge of the rug on the back legs of your chair every time you pull it in or out. A good measurement to keep in mind is to have 36" of rug sticking out from the edge of your table.
- In a bedroom, the ideal scenario is to have a good section of your bed sitting on the rug (at the very least have the feet from the end of the bed on it). You should also have at least 24" sticking out on either side and the end.
9. Make sure you have a variety of light sources in a room.
This is a pretty flexible and general guideline, but it covers both practical and aesthetic considerations in a room. On a practical note, having a mix of ceiling and tabletop light sources is helpful for making sure your whole room gets the right amount of light, and gives you flexibility on how much light you want to have on at different times of day. Aesthetically, a room just feels more homey and polished when you've got the right variety of lighting.
Also, be sure to take note of whether a lamp/fixture casts light up, down, or all around. Different spots will have different needs, so choose your light source appropriately! If you need some tips on choosing a good ceiling light for your space, head to this post.
10. Use feather/down inserts in your throw pillows.
This one's easy to implement! Pillows come with one of three inserts: feather/down, polyester, or none (those are called pillow covers). In most cases, you want to stay away from polyester since they flatten over time and lose their fluff. Feather inserts can be plumped up over and over again and will look brand new with a little bit of fluffing. If you do happen to want to buy a pillow that has a polyester insert, check to see if it has a zipper. If it does, you can swap it for a feather/down insert and you'll be good to go. Want some help picking out throw pillows? I've got you covered!